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A visit to Freedomland, an amusement park in New York.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Director: James Fitzpatrick
Producer: Chris Petersen
Production Company: Petersen Productions
Audio/Visual: sound, b/w
Keywords: Amusement Parks
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Subject: I remember going to Freedomland too!
What fun my sister and I had when our parents took us to Freedomland. So close to Yonkers, easier than the ride to Palisades Park. Too bad this video doesn't have the theme song ... "Mommy and Daddy take my hand, take me down to Freedomland." Alot of us kids would sing that. This little movie isn't as good as my memories.... but thanks for the memories.
Subject: What a great place!
Sure, the promo that I watched here was certainly made for kids but it sure brought back memories, great memories! Freedomland was a fantastic place. I was there with my Mom on opening day and as a youngster, I was awestruck! Critics can say what they want but this was a special place located in the glorious borough of the Bronx! As a baby-boomer living in the north Bronx, my working class family did not have the means to take my brother and I to California to visit Disneyland. But we did go to Freedomland many times. My parents enjoyed the big band music that often played there as well as the attractions that they too could go on without fear of getting sick. For me, the American theme of the park fostered a love of history that I still have to this day. My curiosity of Lewis and Clark, the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, etc., led me to excel in my studies at school and later on become a teacher. I loved going to Freedomland and never had a bad day in this magical place.
Let me remind the critics that this was wholesome family entertainment, woefully lacking in the world in which we live today. Furthermore, let me also say that Freedomland did not fail because of the New York World's Fair. Robert Moses who was in charge of the World's Fair was profoundly disappointed by what he felt was poor attendance at the fair. When he was charged with the task of creating an urban housing development known as Co-Op City, he eyed the site of Freedomland as a possibility to build on. It is widely believed by those "in the know" so to speak, that because organized crime controlled the concrete and construction venues in New York, they wanted Freedomland out of business and Co-Op City to be built. It is rumored that they created so many problems for Freedomland in the way of accidents, stick-ups, etc., that the park could no longer afford insurance and hence could not stay in business. Whether this is true or not, who know? But in any case, Freedomland was "our" Disneyland and made many a Bronx kid very happy! I wish it was still there!
Now that I have said my piece I am going down to White Castle on Allerton Avenue to have a dozen belly-bombers and an orange soda! See ya there!
I sure remember those sight's. It's unfortunate it went under. One of the many contributing factors to it's demize was embezzlement. I put out the Chicago fire about ten times. The only thing they did not mention was the Civil War ride. That ride went around what is now know as goose island, which is directly behind Bldgs 28 and 29 of CO-OP City.
It was a nice stroll through memory lane
Subject: yes, i remember this
interesting film...i can almost remember going there to see fireworks with my parents when i was very young. i must have been 4 or so, but i always remebered the name 'freedomland', so it made an impresion.
actually, the outdoor season there would be short due to the climate...unlike anaheim, california or orlando where you can have open-air events mostly all year long.
Subject: Delightful! For those who never saw it or who did
A terrific film that does a good job of highlighting the park's surprisingly good, Disney-level features. (Seemingly minus some of the commercialistic motives that embody Disney parks.)
I feel a little cheated that I didn't get to go there as a kid. I bet if my folks knew about it, we'd have gone since they fostered a love of history in all their kids, especially me.
I visited Freedomland with my family shortly after it opened. It reminded me of the Danbury State Fair in some ways. Many years later, my wife and I took our daughters to Clark's Trading Post in New Hampshire and lo and behold, there were several Freedomland items there, including the steam train ride! Same thing sort of happened with the Danbury fairk, which I went to every year as a kid and often took my oldest daughter to before it shut down to make way for a mall. My wife and I have run into several items from this fair at various places in the western half of Connecticut, including at the wonderful Stamford House Wrecking company. Ah, memories!
Subject: When the Bronx was King!
This particular video was created for younger viewers and aired on various children shows, such as Sonny Fox's Wonderama. To get a better idea of the true scope of Freedomland, one should take a trip to the Museum of Television in Manhattan and view the Ed Sullivan episode that premiered Freedomland’s grand opening.
I was thirteen and attended the opening day of Freedomland. And I continued visiting the park for most of its life (I lived 2.5 miles from Freedomland and mostly used my Schwinn bicycle for transportation). Being a real Rock 'N' Roll fan, I'd spent many balmy evenings at Satellite City's Moon Bowl (A performing arts stage and 15,000 square foot dance floor that featured an awesome array of popular performers and guests, including the likes of Paul Anka, Count Basie, Dick Clark, Brenda Lee, the Everly Brothers, the Benny Goodman Orchestra, the Harry James Orchestra, Xavier Cugat and Abbe Lane, Ricky Nelson, the Lennon Sisters, Bobby Rydell , Bobby Darin, The Shirelles, Gene Pitney, The Four Seasons… It was a great place to meet girls and swing to the tunes of the hottest groups of the time; I even got the chance to personally meet the Three Stooges and Officer Joe Bolton; I thought that was pretty cool.
I also had the opportunity to visit Disneyland and Knotts Berry farm in 1960, and I can honestly say that Freedomland could easily hold its own against either of those parks. There is much speculation as to why Freedomland failed, but many do not even take into account the fact that it had to close tighter than a drum for at least six months out of the year (the NY winters were really cold back then). And, believe it or not, many of the locals rarely attended the Park. But one must remember that the early sixties were a special time and the Northeast Bronx was quite an experience in itself for the local youth. There were tons of places to take a date: Neighborhood movie theaters resembled palaces, a huge Drive In Theater was available for those of driving age, and there were loads of ice cream parlors, pizza and hamburger joints, awesome night clubs, horseback riding facilities, street fairs, High School dances (there were dozens of high schools and something was always brewing). As I got older, one of my favorite activities was cruising in my muscle car along Boston Post Road to hunt for a drag race on Conner Street, and then, later in the evening, heading over to Orchard Beach with a special honey to do some submarine race watching. Those were great times my friend :)
Even after all thses years Freedomland USA remains one of the best and original theme parks ever built. It disturbs me when critics who never went to the park try to discount what the park featured. The park was just as good as Disneyland, I visited both and still regard Freedomland as it's equal. For those who think Freedomland's main street was a poor imitation don't know that Freedomland's building were full scale and Disneyland's 3/4 scale.
Freedomland from 1960 through 64 the five seasons of the park had more than many parks have now or ever did have. The World's Fair did not force the closing of the park as the Fair only opened in 1964, Freedomland opened in 1960, and the fair would be done as planned in 1965. In fact the true plan for Freedomland's closing was contrived to make money for the owners and operators of the park by Building Co-Op City the housing project.
As far as those that pointed to some problems the park had the first year, so did Disneyland, and if Disney did not have a tv show that pumped money into the park it may have never lasted.
So view this movie as a visual treat of a mere sampling of what the park had, which included rides for everyone and great free entertainment from rock and roll stars to big band entertainers.
It's time that this great park be remembered as one of the best entertainment centers ever built.
It looked like a lot of fun, but was certainly derived heavily from earlier amusement parks, it looked more Knotts Berry Farm to me, but with the themed areas, that's more Disney.
There was a lot of interactive stuff, like the "fire", kids must have loved to go there! But the real money is in adults and teens, so without the rides and attractions to get them in, I'd bet that was more cause of its demise than the fair.
The film was fun, if the narration a bit goofy, but when aren't they?
Paul Alessi -
Subject: Freedomland: From the perspective of a 9 Year Old... GREAT!!!
Having read the previous 2 articles, and having the perspective of my 51 years, I can agree with what has been said; however, this was not an a amusement park geared to adults. It was designed, as is stated in the promo film, to show elements of what is in a child's history books.
I was 9 years old when I first visited Freedomland USA, and I LOVED IT!!! When I saw the scene at the Chicago fire, it brought back vivid memories of that red and brass pump with the wooden handles on either side. I remember thinking that that was one of the most fun things I had ever done... me, a little kid, helping to put out the Chicago Fire...WOW!!! (If there was a bored fireman there, I never noticed him. I was having way too much fun!)
I had never been to Disneyland, although I was reminded that I wanted to go there every Sunday night on Disney's Wonderful World of Color (which, of course, I watched on our black and white TV) on NBC; so I really had no basis of comparison. My parents, for that matter, had never been on a plane (and wouldn't until sometime in the late 1970's), and all our vacations were taken as driving vacations on the east coast, and always headed north; so Disney World would not have been an option (even though it wasn't yet built yet).
At that age, the only other Theme parks that I had been to, were all upstate New York ( Gaslight Village, Storytown, Ghost Town); which meant that I couldn't even hope to go to them unless we were on our once yearly summer vacation; and that was only if we were going in that direction, with enough time to spare to go there! But Freedomland, that was only a short drive from Yonkers, so we could go there on any given weekend, which made it REAL!!
I remember being very sad when they closed Freedomland and kept asking my parents why it happened. They told me that it probably had to do with the 1964 World's Fair. Thinking about that, it does make sense. That could have been an opportunity for a place that was on the par of Disneyland (including it's national notarity) to get people who were coming to the World's Fair to add a day to go there. But this was a fledgling endeavor, having been only 1 year in business; without any major advertising, as far as I remember (I didn't see it every Sunday night on TV), and therefore, was not only not benefitting from the influx of people to the NYC area for the World's Fair; but was actually going to be hurt by it, as they were vying for the same entertainment dollars that were being spent by the locals, who also wanted to go the the World's Fair, especially with it's limited engagement. This never really gave Freedomland the ability to get the attendance levels and income required to upgrade and entice people back for new and improved attractions. I'm sure that with significantly over 200 acres available, the developers of Co-op City were able to make them an offer that only made complete business sense, but in doing so caused every 5-11 year old in the NYC area the loss of an opportunity for some great fun, and memories for many years.
Subject: And here's the Joseph Mccartthy 'Are You a Commie?' ride!
Strange overview about a long-forgotten "amusement" park called, for whatever reason, "Freedomland". It's basically an Americana theme park, where you can ride a paddlwheeler, ala the Mark Twain ride in Disneyland,, ride in canoes to tour wild terrain, ala the Jungle Cruise ride in Disneyland, Ride in the gondolas ala etc etc. As a matter of fact, this is one POOR replication of what looks to be Main Street USA in Disneyland. They try to replicate famous events in history, and one bizarre highlight is the Chicago fire, Every half hour! They have "Firemen" putting out fires, and even the commentator of this film comments on how bored the firemen to be. A very odd piece indeed.
Subject: Freedomland: The Theme Park That Failed
Freedomland was intended as the East coast's answer to Disneyland, but it lacked the pizazz of the Magic Kingdom, and closed after just a few years. You can see the lack of showmanship when you watch the re-creation of the Chicago Fire. One of the firemen is so obviously bored that even the cheerful narrator is compelled to comment on it: "This fireman doesn't look very worried. Here at Freedomland, they have the Chicago Fire every half hour, every day..."
Within the first few days of the park's grand opening, the stagecoach ride shown in this film overturned, injuring several visitors and generating a lot of bad publicity.
Technically, this is a pretty flat, low-budget film, clearly geared to children, with a harmonica soundtrack that gets a bit tiresome. It's strangely interesting to see how dull the park was -- you can clearly see why it flopped.